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Shaq retires and will be missed

Jun 1, 2011, 5:07 PM EDT

O'NEAL AP

I’m going to miss having Shaquille O’Neal around the NBA.

It’s the end of an era — Kyrie Irving, the top pick in this coming draft, was born the year Shaq entered the league. But it feels like more than that.

I’ll miss him in part because he was a reminder that this is a game and we should all be having fun with it — players, fans and media alike.

In a league where often players treat basketball like a desk job, where the players practice speaking in clichés like out of Bull Durham, where the media can take itself too seriously, where there is a wall between players and fans (and media), Shaq broke all that down. This is hoops, it isn’t Navy Seals storming an armed compound in the Middle East. This should be fun. Shaq’s persona was the counterbalance to Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

You played practical jokes on teammates, and laughed with them. You tweet with fans (social media was made for Shaq and is part of his legacy). You just show up and pretend to be a statue  and let fans come out and hang out with you. Or you conduct the Boston POPS! Or you ride the subway dressed like a woman.

He was a big kid who got to play a game for a living, and why shouldn’t he love that? Why shouldn’t practice have some jokes, why shouldn’t the locker room have laughter? And we were all along for the ride. This was supposed to be fun.

I remember Shaq and Gregg Popovich joking around during the first game of the season and thinking they really got it.

He was a big kid, and maybe that carried over to a lack of responsibility about conditioning at times. Some may remember that and the injury-plagued end of his career. Or the feud with Kobe. But not me. I choose to remember him as dominant force he was a decade ago as a player. There have been few centers better. Ever.

He brought plenty of strength and thunder to the court, but there was lightning there too. Guys who were 7’1”, 325 should not be able to drop lighting quick spin moves to get around their defender, or run the floor with the break. Shaq could do all that in his prime and more. He was a very good passer out of the post. He was a good all around player (save free throws).

He also will forever be at the heart of one of my greatest sports memories.

I lucked into tickets for Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. Someone I worked with at the time was a Lakers season ticket holder and had playoff tickets, but he had to fly back to England for his sister’s wedding and so he had to sell his Game 7 seats (well before anyone knew there would be a Game 7).

As a Lakers fan, with obnoxious Blazers fans right behind me, there was nothing like that game. The lows of missed shots. The highs of the comeback (which was fueled by so many Blazer misses of shots they had not missed for six and three quarters games).

Then the ally-oop.

And the explosion of noise in Staples Center. A building where now everyone was hugging and high-fiving everyone, whether you knew them or not. You were now there with your 19,000 best friends. Los Angeles is not like that, you don’t talk to your neighbors, or the guy in the next seat. But on this day we all knew we were witnessing one of the best sports moments of our lives. Los Angeles felt like a family.

Shaq did that. I’m going to miss him for all of it.

  1. randysavage4ever - Jun 1, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Like my other Shaq Post on the other article…

    This man represents an era. Last of the a dying breed – a TRUE CENTER

    On the court, in his prime – the most dominant player in the game. His drop step was devastating, no center could check Shaq straight up without fouling him.

    Off the court – blue chips (great movie its all on youtube – must see), biggie and rap (cool stuff), & charisma made the NBA more popular

    I really can not put into words what Shaq really meant to an entire generation of kids – me being 1 of them… sad day it means I’m gettin’ old & times are changing…

    When I think of Shaq…

    1) BRINGING DOWN THE ENTIRE BASKET with Orlando…

    2) The Kobe alley-oop vs Portland and the infamous pointing to Kobe coming back down court…

    3) Nick Nolte going to Algiers in Blue Chips, walking in a backdoor gym & seeing Shaq reject a shot 100 feet & dunking with absurd power…Nolte’s face is priceless…

    4) the CHARITY WORK – being santa – handing out gifts to kids in poverty…

    5) the sacramento “queens”

    List goes on and on…

    played with penny, wade, kobe, lebron, nash, celts big 3,

    played vs – hakeem, MJ, dwight, etc…

    This guy SHAQ – has done & accomplished any and every thing an NBA player could do on & off court…

    LOVE U MAN!

    • torotrigger - Jun 1, 2011 at 8:00 PM

      Definitely one if my favorite public persona people ever. I hope he has Many more years of success in whatever he does next.

  2. digitalpoo - Jun 1, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    You’re making tears come outa my face.

  3. georgeanderson2 - Jun 1, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Top five all-time centers in NBA history:

    1. Kareem
    2. Shaq
    3. Wilt
    4.Russell
    5. The Dream

    Glad that I got to see Shaq’s career. Thought that LSU squad with Chris Jackson and Stanley were fun to watch.

    • andyhr17 - Jun 1, 2011 at 6:22 PM

      Bill Russell number 4? Really?

      • hnirobert3 - Jun 1, 2011 at 7:39 PM

        You just can’t have Wilt over Russell. No way, no how.

      • georgeanderson2 - Jun 1, 2011 at 8:22 PM

        You can’t deny Russells 11 titles. But Wilt had more of an impact as a center on the game of basketball in its development. Wilt was a better athlete than Bill.Wilt was a better basketball player than Bill, obviously not a better teammate than Bill, but a better basketball player. And lets not get this clouded, its not like I am saying Bill is some overrated junk player. I have him as number 4 of all time. There are only three people put ahead of him. You can’t talk about the history of the game without mentioning either player.

        To each his own. But just about any guy who has played in the league would like to have their name mentioned as being one of the top 4 of all time. In most conversations of the top 4 you will find that 4 in some combination.

      • JumpBob - Jun 2, 2011 at 4:28 PM

        6’9″ and 220 lbs., he’s Luol Deng

    • chargerdillon - Jun 1, 2011 at 10:42 PM

      Kareem – Airplane
      Shaq – Kaza
      Wilt – Conan

      Therefore both Wilt and Kareem should be above Shaq

      REALLY SHAQ KAZAM?! A RAPPING GENIE?!

  4. eazye76 - Jun 1, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    Great article. Not a huge Shaq fan, but the NBA will not be the same without him.

  5. boodiggly - Jun 1, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    1. Being huge doesn’t make you talented, but then again this IS the NBA…
    2. Retiring via Tweet = Low Class GHETT-O

  6. pudgalvin - Jun 1, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    I think what I don’t like about Shaq is that if were six inches shorter, he wouldn’t have been in the NBA. If any of the other centers on the top 5, top 10 lists where six inches shorter, they’re still all stars. I know, if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle. I just hated how he just bulldozed people because he was twice as big as them. There wasn’t a ton of skill in what he was doing. You’re not a career 50% free throw shooter because you’re just an average shooter. Refs had to change what they thought was an offensive foul because he would have fouled out every game in the first quarter.

    • randysavage4ever - Jun 1, 2011 at 9:45 PM

      big IF – If he WAS six inches shorter- but he’s not…If I were six inches taller I would be in the NBA – but I’m not…

      He bulldozed people bc he was bigger then them?….ok and? should we penalize Yao Ming because he’s taller then them?

      WASNT A TON OF SKILL?
      you try being that big and having coordination to play basketball… please believe there are other human beings with Shaq’s natural size but none of them play basketball because none of them have skill…

      Footwork for a drop step, baby hook, up & under, etc… thats skill! – he doesnt just wake up with that size and be able to make moves down low like that…it takes work…and work leads to skill…
      &
      What about his passing from the post? , understanding lanes & cutters , where double teams are coming from, etc… that takes skill physically as well as mentally

      free throws? – he made them when they mattered most – TRUE – see Miami vs Mavericks ’06 – clutch free throws he made late in games… also many playoff games with LA he would hit them down the stretch

      Refs had to change what an offensive foul was? More like refs had to change what a defensive foul was because they would HACK the ISH outta him and it would not get called…kinda like how Dwight Howard gets hacked these days and sometimes does not get the call – Stan Van doesnt go nuts for no reason…

      Shaq has taken 3 different franchises to the Finals…Its no coincidence that his side kicks went downhill for a while after he left them…

      Penny? – career over after Shaq left Orlando (knicks & suns years are not what penny was – we know that)

      Kobe? – eliminated swiftly by the Suns, and non-relevant in the Championship chase until the power move for Gasol was made…

      Wade?- see Lebron

      Nash?- ehhh, he did make the west finals after shaq left, but he got a Shaq on his last wheels after the Kerr trade…

      Lebron?- see Wade

      I’m just trying to do you a favor, talking in basketball circles about how Shaq is not that good will instantly lose you credibility…Thats one of those “oh Troy Aikman wasn’t that good…(eyes roll)” – the man has 3 rings, & Shaq has 4…

      • pudgalvin - Jun 2, 2011 at 3:56 PM

        Perhaps I didn’t explain myself well. Obviously Shaq was a dominant as any center in the last 30 years. But it wasn’t because he was a ridiculously skilled player. It was because he was bigger than anyone else. There’s a reason he couldn’t make a shot if he wasn’t within 5 feet of the basket. Doesn’t take anything away from how dominant he was, I just didn’t really care for him.

        Also, how many championships did shaq win without a hall of fame sidekick? You can say all those players needed Shaq, but he most certainly needed him as well.

  7. gaycarboys - Jun 2, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    Thank god there was a pic or I wouldn’t have known what I Shaq was LOL

  8. ournote2self - Jun 2, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    He will definitely be missed!

  9. Book Nerd - Jun 2, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Along with everything else he did, Shaq also led the league in throwing his teammates and coaches under the bus. He might have been a good player, but he was an offensively liability late in games because of his free throw shooting.

    If Shaq had worked more on his game other than just bullying over people as he did and worked to get along with his teammates he could’ve and should’ve won 7 or 8 championships easily.

    Shaq is probably the most obnoxious personality in sports in the past twenty years and the only reason he isn’t torn apart by everyone is because he was kind to the media. He was an obnoxious player and a horrible teammate, which is why he played for 6 different teams. I can understand if he left as a free agent every time, but he was traded, that shows that he was a horrible teammate.

    Shaq should have retired before he played for Phoenix, Cleveland, or Boston. He got by the last several years on his annoying personality and being bigger than everyone else, not because of any skill that he had at that point.

  10. zblott - Jun 2, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    Here is a basic breakdown of Shaq’s place among the all-time great centers:

    http://behindthebasket.squarespace.com/btb/2011/6/2/shaqs-place-among-the-best-centers-ever.html

  11. Chloe - Jun 2, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    Sorry but does anyone else find our idolizing these sports stars a tad pathetic. humanity kept its place on planet earth not for our strength, but for our intelligence.not that all athletes are unintelligent, but we idolize the wrong people

  12. Asian Dyna - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    Hope he’ll retire from rapping too…

  13. Rodnee - Jun 3, 2011 at 2:49 AM

    Finally!!!

  14. richannkur - Jun 3, 2011 at 6:09 AM

    good one…

  15. Calogero Mira - Jun 3, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    Thanks.

  16. Justin - Jun 4, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    The NBA won’t be the same without him! It will really be quite different, he has made such an impact on the game but at 38 it’s really his time to leave on a good note. Congrats shaq on a great career.

  17. zaksuhar - Jun 12, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    Who can’t love Shaq-Fu? He will me missed, just like his free throws.

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